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286                                                                                                             B. POLEVOI
"Listen, boy! Forget that silly proverb before it's too
late. And another thing, Comrade Sergeant-Major. At
the front you're supposed to obey your superiors. If the
order is: 'Down!' you must lie down."
He found a juicy stick of horse sorrel in the grass,
stripped the fibrous skin with his finger-nails and chewed
the crisp plant with relish. Again the sound of aircraft
engines was heard, and the same two planes flew low over
the road, slightly rolling from wing to wing; they passed
so close that the dark-yellow paint on their wings, the
black and white crosses, and even the ace of spades
painted on the fuselage of the nearest of them, could be
seen distinctly. The senior lieutenant lazily plucked a few
more "ponies", looked at his watch and commanded:
"All clear! Let's go! And step on it! The farther we
are from this place, the better."
The driver sounded his horn and the post-woman came
running from the hollow. She offered several pink wild
strawberries hanging on their stalks to the senior lieu-
"They are ripening already----We didn't notice the
summer coming in," he said, smelling the berries and
sticking them in the buttonhole of his tunic pocket like a
"How do you know they won't come back and that it
is safe to go on?" the youth asked the senior lieutenant,
who had fallen silent and was again swaying in unison
with the truck as it bumped over the pitfalls.
"That's easily explained. They are 'Messers', 'Me-109'.
They carry enough fuel for only forty-five minutes' flying.
They have spent it and have gone to refuel."
The senior lieutenant gave this explanation in a tone
suggesting that he could not understand how people did
not know such a simple thing. The youth now began to
scan the sky more vigilantly; he wanted to be the first to
signal the return of the "Messers". But the air was clear
and so impregnated with the smell of the luxuriantly
growing grass, dust and heated earth, the grasshoppers
chirped so vigorously and merrily, and the larks sang so
loudly over the dreary, weed-covered land, that he forgot
about the German aircraft and the danger, and in a clear,
pleasant voice began to sing the song that was popular